I don’t know how many of the readers of this column have been victims of identity theft, but I can assure you that it is a traumatizing experience. Unfortunately, this form of scam affects many members of our community, and especially the most vulnerable. Periodically, our Hispanic Federation hosts online presentations, or webinars, on that issue. These presentations have been in charge of Rosario Méndez, a lawyer from the Office of Consumer Protection, which is a unit of the Federal Trade Commission of the United States.
“Simply put, identity theft occurs when one person uses someone else’s personal or financial information without their permission,” Mendez explains. “In 2022, identity theft was the number one problem people reported to our office. And that’s been the case for the past few years.”
Criminals can illegally obtain a victim’s name and address, or their credit card or bank account number, or their Social Security or health insurance number. With these data they can open credit accounts or acquire credit cards, or withdraw money from bank accounts, or make many other purchases and commercial operations. In some cases, criminals can even get home loans with that new identity.
“We see a good number of scams by email and through social networks, but the means that scammers use most frequently to get in touch with their potential victims is the telephone,” Méndez details. “So we all have to be very alert when we get a call from a stranger who wants to sell us something, or offers to help with a problem, or asks for a payment, because he may be a scammer.”
Statistical data from the Federal Trade Commission confirm the cruelty and cowardice of identity thieves. Although almost anyone can be a victim (because some of the scammers are very skilled and convincing), the sector most punished is that of the elderly.
“Older adults – ages 70 to 79 – report fewer cases of fraud to the Federal Trade Commission than other groups,” explains Rosario Méndez, “but when they report that they have been victims of fraud, they report that they have lost a lot, a lot of money ”.
A very compelling reason for those who have elderly relatives or friends to try to protect them, verifying who they give money to or their personal information, where they make payments, etc.
In future columns I will expand the information about this very frequent form of crime, but I do not want to say goodbye without first giving you the address of a Federal Trade Commission website where you can not only report cases of identity theft but also obtain information about the steps they can take, the resources they can count on and much more practical information. The address is http://www.identitytheft.gov.
Another web address that may be helpful to New York State residents is the Office of Victim Services,
In the meantime, if you want more information about the Hispanic Federation and its organizations, you can visit http://www.hispanicfederation.org.
Celebrate our 33rd anniversary with us, and see you in the next column!
Frankie Miranda is the president of the Hispanic Federation
#Identity #Theft #Threat